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Kangaroos side without Folau to play NZ

02/05/2010 07:33:51 PM Comments (0)

Australian coach Tim Sheens was adamant politics had little to do with it but the representative career of the youngest ever Kangaroo appears over after Israel Folau was left out of the national side for Friday night's Test against New Zealand.

With his future in rugby league up in the air amid reports he is weighing up massive offers from both rugby union and AFL, Folau was on Sunday overlooked as selectors opted for Manly veteran Jamie Lyon to partner Greg Inglis in the centres for the AAMI Park encounter.

Sheens denied Folau's possible move to a rival code had anything to do with the snubbing, but it would seem the 21-year-old's days in the green and gold of the Kangaroos are numbered given his form with Brisbane - while punctuated by injury - has been of a high standard this season.

"Jamie's a specialist right-side player and we were looking for a specialist, he's also a specialist centre and a goalkicker and without Jonathan (Thurston) that's going to be an issue for us," Sheens said.

"(Folau) was considered. he's only been back a while and he's not a specialist centre, he's played a lot of wing."

Thurston was ruled out after suffering a grade three AC joint injury in his right shoulder, with his understudy from last year's triumphant Four Nations campaign - Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk - getting the nod for what will be his third Test appearance.

Cronk beat out fellow Queenslander Scott Prince for the role, their battle epitomising the depth in playmaker options available for the Maroons in this year's State of Origin series.

The Storm star's club combination with fullback Billy Slater and hooker Cameron Smith helped earn him the nod.

"When you weigh it all up that's part of it, his knowledge of the nine and the one, the short week's preparation, it's in Melbourne," Sheens said.

"He's had a little bit more football ... Scott was probably unlucky to be injured at the time (he was) also because his form's been good as well." Cronk's inclusion also backs up Sheens' belief that the team that helped bring home the Four Nations trophy should be shown some loyalty, with 12 players from the side which defeated England in the final at Leeds retained.

Two changes were forced with Justin Hodges and Thurston both injured, while the inclusion of David Shillington, Josh Perry and debutant Michael Weyman helps bolster a pack sure to be tested by a physical Kiwi side.

Sheens said he had little fear of Melbourne's salary cap crisis affecting team morale, his faith reassured by a midweek conversation with Smith.

"(Smith) seems to think they're handling it okay, (I won't know) until I sit down with them and have a chat, there are a number of issue we'd want to sort out," Sheens said.

"They're wearing a different colour, so it's important that we focus on that.

"They're not Melbourne players playing for Australia, they're Australian players and I'll be keen to keep a lid on that and make sure they concentrate on playing for Australia and not letting too many side issues distract them."

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